Time control check out at 7:05 today from the hotel lobby where I passed my little blue book with a little gadget which records the times we either arrive or leave a ‘Time Control” point…. then off we went toward Erenhot.
Disemboweled apartment blocks stood clumped across the landscape. Wide roads seemed empty. Where had everyone gone? Had people ever lived there? We drove through such a varied and at times perplexing landscape where time was not evident. Just emptiness.
Extensive motorways had been built yet the entrances to the on-ramps had been blocked off and some of the sides of the barrier rails had turned to rubble. Had they been completed?? Or had they become redundant because the people had not been funneled into these huge cities that were built with such regimentation it was hard for me – admittedly as a voyeur; to gauge the life within it.
The sky darkened and the windscreen splatted with huge drops. We decided to pop on the roof and we were so glad we did. As much as we don’t like having the roof on… we were snug and warm.
Penny’s motor sung sweetly and at times changed the pulse of her tone when we drove past barriers which were huge blocks with spaces in between, and her resonance pulsed with the gaps. She was wonderful all day and drove us through such diverse landscape.
Blue bulging barriers lay across wide river flats as a form of dynamic dam. Water was pumped into these immense tubes or let out depending upon the height of the water required behind them. Bridges made from concrete blocks and bricks skipped across expanses of rubble to higher ground.
As we gained elevation reforestation was extensive. The denuded rocky slopes were covered with orderly tufts of new tree plantings.
It became apparent that smaller communities were poorer than their counterparts in the cities. Satellite dishes often perched outside homes surrounded by dirt and rubbish, with cracked glass in which seeped not only coal dust but the frozen air of winter.
Looking to the North the dry green on rubbled rocks morphed and merged into the regimented rectangular rooftops. We were in the middle of ‘nowhere’…. Expanses as far as the eye could see of undulating rubble and tufts of dry grass and then a huge constructed city swelled the horizon. I wonder what life was held within those flat-boxed walls and roofs?
Construction was evident everywhere from and within the rock and mountain. Railways being formed spanned caverns, gullies and gorges and across plains and desert.
Angular shapes of text communicated directions, explanations, information. Signs were everywhere in Chinese and very few words are written in English anywhere, with the main exception being on some motorways and the further west we go the less evident. There was one exception through with a huge sign with the words “Socialist Core Values” written in English. It was obviously written for westerners… but I’m not sure what it even means. Very strange.
A man slid in a harness pulling himself along a power line above a gorge which was filled with rubbish waiting for the next flood to clear it to the ocean.
Bricks were dropped from laden trucks like the breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel …. And we had to ensure Penny didn’t hit any as we meandered through the mountains at around 1600 – 1800mts in elevation.
White long mounds humped the land and within them grew tomatoes, capsicum, beans, green vegetables. Each ‘green house’ was also covered during the night with carpet, which was rolled out up and over the white dome of plastic; to keep the necessary temperature for optimum growth of the plant and its much needed produce growing.
Paddocks were ploughed with respect for the dead and any gravesites or significant places were left as a reminder of the spiritual nature of those who tilled the soil.
Shiny grey panels replaced the green rows of planting and unlike what was planted in the ground, these hard panels provided energy in another form upon which humans utilize.
The sky became dark again which provided the palette for my first experience in the Gobi desert, which was so wonderful. There were times along the two long stretches of 50km or more between the ‘tulips’ that I just stared into the expansive landscape and couldn’t believe I was actually driving through there.
Black dots of horses speckled the land and sand which blew across the plains and motorways and managed to find our eyes and mouths as we drove further north.
Huge drops of rain started and for about 10 seconds hail cracked the shell of my Goretex hood.
Powerlines linked stations to cities yet spanned over homes where coal and sticks from trimmings of roadside plantings; was used for cooking and heating homes. Vertical pillars stood omnipotent on the horizon through the mist of the rain and yet when we drove alongside these wind farms, they seemed silent and frozen even as the wind howled across the plain.
Goats and sheep ambled through paddocks and across motorways being tended by generally a single male wearing jeans and a look-alike American baseball jacket with a mobile phone in his pocket.
The space of the beginning of the Gobi was one of contrasts. It was for me a complex mix of nature and man’s ability to live within it.
Penny started out early and was in the leading pack for most of the day. We drove through an area where huge models of dinosaurs co-existed alongside modern windmills which have potential to generate power from the wind. The juxtaposition of the two was fascinating to observe.
So… tonight Erenhot… tomorrow on toward Mongolia. A border crossing. Until next time sharing more of my experiences on the Peking to Paris Endurance Rally.